Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

Monday night brought a new proof copy of not just my story “Snow,” but the full text of STORIES FOR THE THOUGHTFUL YOUNG (née “Bedtime Stories,” see June 5, et al.) in two formats, DOCX and PDF.  While equipment here now can handle short DOCX files, the length of this one may have proved too formidable, but the PDF version opened as smooth as silk (well, leisurely silk, this still being the Second Slowest Computer In The World) and yesterday evening I gave it a go-through.  Name spelled correctly, check.  Bio, acknowledgements okay, check.  But the story itself had a weird problem with it, the individual already-edited story file having apparently gained a glitch that, in effect, erased line skips indicating scene breaks from about a third of the way through to the end.  This was for the PDF copy anyway, so it’s possible the other version was still okay with the problem coming in the change of format, so I explained that this was the copy I was correcting and, citation by citation (of which there were four or five, the story shifting between the protagonist’s and “meanwhile back at the Evil Queen’s palace” segments) sent the changes back, along with one for another unrelated minor error, a bit after midnight.

So another task, another bit of The Writing Life gone past, and STORIES FOR THE THOUGHTFUL YOUNG, from B Cubed Press, is now (as noted as well on the 5th, below) that much closer to publication.

The peripatetic “Bedtime Stories” (cf. May 4, November 30) may have settled now with a permanent title, a simple STORIES FOR THE THOUGHTFUL YOUNG, or at least is so shown on a draft cover currently up on publisher B Cubed Press’s Facebook page.  Small changes, of course, may still be made — on blurb copy, for instance, on the back — but so far it seems to look pretty nice!  Working titles included such variants as BEDTIME STORIES FOR PROGRESSIVE PARENTS (aha!  the change in focus may indicate why, in the editing stage, I was moved to change a naughty word to one more family friendly), while my part in it remains the also simply-titled “Snow,” of a teenage girl whose evil stepmother, Evelyn, is also queen, and seven little people in the jewel-mining trade — a combination you just know can’t end well.  Or can it?

To find out one must buy the book, one supposes, which with its cover art revealed — at least in draft form — is one giant step closer to publication.

[T]his anthology is looking for well-written, spine-tingling tales of horror infused with black humor (gallows humor).  We are open to all categories of horror:  gore, psychological, killers, monsters, and occult/paranormal.  Twisted and tacky is a plus.  This is from the original call for MADAME GRAY’S CREEP SHOW and what’s not to love?  The guidelines said “original stories” and it just so happened I had one I’d written some time back, but the one market it had clicked with went belly up before it could be published and after that it just sort of languished . . . well, you’ve heard this sort of sad story before.  The title was “Wormbreath” and it’s about the joy of being dead — especially if you’re somewhat of a practical joker who’s had a bad marriage and don’t much like your daughter either — so “why not?” I thought and off it went.

Today brought the answer:  HellBound Books is pleased to accept “Wormbreath” for inclusion in MADAME GRAY’S CREEP SHOW!  With it was a contract along with details about sending a bio (already done!) and how page proofs for vetting should come around early October and to be ready for them.  Madame Gray would not be the kind to want to let grass grow under her feet.

Well, fair enough thought I, I like to see things published on schedule too, so just a couple of hours ago I completed step one, reading and signing the contract, and sent it back.

Another stroll down Memory Lane (see November 30, 2019):  The guidelines said it.  “We’re looking for nursery rhymes, poetry, and stories that can be read and enjoyed by children of all ages.  There is no lower word limit on poems or nursery rhymes.”  Mine, however, would be a story, “Snow,” a 2000-word riff (more or less) on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”  An evil queen, a stepdaughter in training, height-challenged jewel miners.  The book in question, to be published by B Cubed Press:  ALTERNATIVE BEDTIME READING FOR PROGRESSIVE PARENTS.  Thus the story accepted; a contract signed (a drawn-out process involving coronavirus-related computer limitations, but so it goes, eh?); yesterday, Sunday, evening brought the edited copy of “Snow” from the publisher for my approval.  Then, following a lateish night read, I added in a few small corrections and back it went.

So despite the troubles of the world around us, the writing life continues as always.  Contracts. . . .  Approvals. . . .  The slow grind of publishing, but this book, I think, will be well worth the wait.  More to appear here as it becomes known.

Also for a shorter look-back, the promised preview of stories for Tell-Tale Press’s NABU CARNEVALE promotion (see May 2, below) has now gone live in the Press’s “Library,” for which one may press here.  Scroll down to the Fantasy section, the first section listed, and press to find mine, a dark fantasy titled “Ballet of the Dolls,” where it will be the second of four stories.

So talk about quick!  Today’s email brought a finished PDF copy of the Spring STAR*LINE it seems like I just proofread . . . how long ago now?  Just under a week, on April first (see April 1, March 25), including my poem “A Ray of Sun” continuing the adventures of our well-fed friend, the Mermaid Vampiress.  But that wasn’t all.  Just the day before, Monday, the print edition of the Winter STAR*LINE arrived in my mailbox, though there weren’t any poems by me in that issue.

Such is the way things happen sometimes.  Was the winter issue just *really* late, or has some insidious spinoff from COVID-19 made its manifestation?  I tend to lean toward the first, actually — I don’t know if others got late copies too, or just mine perhaps was misdirected (occasionally mail for Bloomington, Indiana takes unscheduled side trips to Bloomington, Illinois — in fact, my luggage on a plane almost did that once, except I spotted its tag in the outgoing queue [BIL instead of BMG for those into airport code letters, though nowadays one has to land at IND and take a bus the final fifty or so miles]).

Anyhow, the reason for nothing by me being in that issue is that I don’t get around to submitting poetry as much as I should, so let that be the moral.

At 5.2 MB it took half an eternity to download on the antique Cave Computer, or at least so it seemed, but metaphorically chugging away the beast did its job.  Thus unveiled, a proof copy of STAR*LINE 43.2 for Spring 2020.  And nestled inside on lucky page 13, “A Ray of Sun” (see March 25), a three-liner on our sybaritic friend, the mermaid vampiress, who demonstrates the way she likes to greet the summer.  But then to business:  Please proof your piece(s) in the attached PDF of Star*Line 43.2 as well as your listing(s) in the table of contents.  Your name may also appear in the SFPA announcements.  And so I did, finding no errors, and sent my approval back to Vince Gotera.

This will, incidentally, be Editor Gotera’s final issue, stepping down after three years of sharing, among other virtues, a sense of humor that was able to put up with the mermaid vampiress.  For that alone, he will be missed (although perhaps not by the mermaid’s victims).

Talking Heads singer David Byrne plays host to this bizarre patchwork of tabloid-inspired tales, set in the fictional town of Virgil, Texas.  Cruising the streets in his cherry-red drop-top, Byrne introduces viewers to the local eccentrics gearing up for the town’s 150th anniversary.  They include a community leader (Spalding Gray) with a thing for veggies, a woman (Swoosie Kurtz) so lazy she won’t leave her bed, a lovelorn country singer (John Goodman) and more!  (Google blurb)

Not the Indiana University Cinema blurb this time, for a change of pace.  But what can you say?  It was Monday night’s showing at the Cinema, and it was fun.  Except of course the tales in TRUE STORIES aren’t really true, but they almost could be.  They’re tales of middle American individuals and families that ought to be true, the eccentrics and characters you likely met yourself when you were growing up — and that you still might be now if you pause to look.  Well, maybe not quite the fashion show at the local mall, but even it sort of.  And it’s clean, gentle fun, enhanced this time, I thought, by seeing on the big screen in the theater partly because of the people around me, picking the humor up, laughing out loud at times but never raucously, always with its own kind of politeness.

It was a good film for an unseasonably warm day at its afternoon best, but for which the rains had come when we got out.  A residual warmness on the walk home, and even the rain more of a friendly drizzle.  And one thing I noted, but kind of strangely:  The film, really a series of vignettes, has at its closest to a plot the fictional town of Virgil, Texas preparing for its 150th anniversary, culminating in a parade and a nighttime talent show, the latter of which gave me a sudden reminder — and maybe a new understanding as well — of President Trump’s inaugural concert three years ago.  Small town acts in spirit, yet for the performers a kind of love too.  But in overall context still with a touch of weirdness that gave the feeling that this is a film that might be most enjoyed if one watches it having been mildly soused.

Humor pervaded the featured portion of this evening’s Writers Guild “First Wednesday Spoken Word Series” at local tavern Bears Place (cf. February 5, et al.) with storyteller Nell Weatherwax opening with two pieces on her first amateur comedy club presentation and an up-coming radio gig morphing into the eccentricities of her father; stand-up comedian Shanda Sung on the everyday challenges of being a 35-year-old woman and mother of three kids; and Mary Armstrong-Smith with “I Teach at the Walgreen’s” and “Watering the Flower,” the latter concerning a childhood memory about family relations and an incident with her mother and grandmother and a pet puppy, all presentations extremely funny but with their serious sides as well.  Then, along with musical guest Trillium, a well-populated open mike portion brought nine readers, with me number four with another in my “Casket Girls” series, “Fit for a King,” with the irrepressible Claudette and more poetically-minded Yvonne discussing the pre-Mardi Gras carnaval tradition of sharing a king cake.

At the movies again, with a new 10 p.m. Friday night “Not-Quite Midnights” Indiana University Cinema feature, Terry Gilliam’s 1977 JABBERWOCKY.  Says the cinema’s program blurb:  Terry Gilliam’s first solo directorial film — less than two years after directing MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL with Terry Jones — is a wildly imaginative tale that follows a young peasant with no taste for adventure as he is mistakenly chosen to rid the kingdom of a ghastly monster threatening the countryside.  Though inspired by a line from a Lewis Carroll poem, “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch,” the film is unquestionably a product of Gilliam’s creative genius.  Restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation.  Contains mature content, including nudity, strong language, and violence.

I recommend it!  I admittedly went with a slightly doubtful feeling, having seen MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL before, the first time enjoying it well enough, but more recently realizing that it was really more a series of skits, any of which could have been good alone on the old MONTE PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS TV show, but which became tedious strung together into a feature length movie.  That is they may have been agreeably silly, and all on a medieval theme tied into a sort of quest plot, but ultimately not really rising to much more than a series of jokes.  Indeed, the docent pointed out before the film that Gilliam himself was anxious to not just produce a repeat but to put his own stamp on JABBERWOCKY, and now having seen it I think he succeeded.  There’s silliness, yes, a lot of it, but now of a kind that grows out of the situations in the film as opposed to being there just for its own sake, and giving the whole a sense of more depth.  A fleshing out of, yes, a still fairly simple plot, but combined with much better production values as well, giving for me a greater sense of completeness.  And, attempted explanations aside, still a lot of fun.

I live near the end of a postal route which means that my mail usually arrives in late afternoon or evening — sometimes in these winter months even after dark, possibly not to be discovered until the next morning.  That’s reflected here when an item often may not get posted until the next day (though of course email items can also not be received until very late) as, for instance, now.

So what Thursday’s mail brought was a fairly bulky padded package, in which was my long-awaited author’s copy of SPACE OPERA LIBRETTOS (cf. January 1, et al.), the book of [d]ramatic, large-scale stories of the distant future, focused on optimism and inclusion and blowing things up.  Weird mashups.  Actual arias.  Fat ladies singing on funeral pyres.  Watery tarts distributing swords optional.  So had said the guidelines and so, at last, it was here — part of the game is that authors’ copies, at least in print, often come slowly, publishers having to fulfill paid customers’ orders first — including my own tale in number three spot, “The Needle Heat Gun,” a saga of heroism and love on an uncharted planet with, if not formal singing, a lot of humming.

If interested, “The Needle Heat Gun” is one of twenty stories of music and outer-space (or thereabouts) mayhem, more on which can be found by pressing here.

Then for a quick Friday addendum (or electronic copies can come much faster), today’s email brought a PDF authors’ copy of SEVEN DEADLY SINS:  LUST (see post just below) with my “A Cup Full of Tears,” a brief recounting of sweet lesbian vampire love.  With it came instructions for also obtaining a paperback copy, but with a warning:  that its arrival might be less quick.

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